ENCINITAS — In response to a SANDAG report citing a recent increase in Encinitas’ crime rate, Capt. Herbert Taft of the Sheriff’s North Coastal Station presented a detailed explanation of the rise in violent and property crimes to the Encinitas City Council on October 14.
In the published mid-year report SANDAG outlined a 58% increase in violent crimes as well as a 17% increase in property crimes between January and June of 2020, however, according to Taft, these numbers do not accurately portray the safety of Encinitas residents, nor the intricacies of the crimes committed.
“I’ve been [Encinitas’] Chief of Police for a couple of years now and I want to say that this is a very safe city,” Taft said. “it’s one of the safest cities in the county and a great community to live in.”
Taft’s presentation to the Encinitas City Council on October 14 can be viewed in full here.
Each month, the Encinitas North Coast Station relays local crime data to SANDAG, contributing to two reports each calendar year which the San Diego region’s crime statistics. However, according to Taft, SANDAG publishes said data without offering an explanation or placing the statistics in context, prompting his offer to report on violent and property crimes to the council.
According to Taft, violent crime is defined as homicide, rape, robbery or aggravated assault.
During 2019 Encinitas reported 38 individual violent crimes, including zero homicides, three rapes, five robberies and 30 aggravated assaults while during 2020, 60 violent crimes were committed, including no homicides, four rapes, 15 robberies and 41 aggravated assaults.
Expanding upon the increase in aggravated assaults, Taft explained the reported number directly represents the number of persons listed as victims.
In 2019, Encinitas reported 30 cases of aggravated assault with 30 victims while in 2020, the city reported 34 cases of aggravated assault with 41 victims. According to Taft, this discrepancy in victims, as depicted in the 58% increase, is caused by five cases in which there were multiple victims.
Detailing instances in which one individual attacked multiple victims, Taft described a case in which one person left a bar intoxicated, driving down the sidewalk, injuring multiple victims as well as another in which one person pulled out a pocket knife threatening multiple people.
“The truth of the matter is you only have four more cases of aggravated assaults in 2020 than you had in 2019,” Taft said.
Additionally, property crimes, defined as burglary, larceny and motor vehicle theft, increased by 17%, though according to Taft this is also a deceiving statistic.
According to Taft, the increase in property crime was primarily driven by two individuals now in custody for committing 20 instances of theft, as well as a rise in commercial, not residential burglaries.
Due to the statewide shutdowns of commercial businesses, criminals increasingly broke into shut down establishments, however, once businesses began to reopen, the city saw a decrease in related break-ins.
“This is a very safe place to live. I would live here,” Taft said, “And the true test of that is if you’d ask a cop if they’d live there… it’s a good indicator that you live in a safe city.”
In total, Taft spent an hour speaking to the council and answering relevant questions.
Councilmember Joe Mosca asked whether Taft had any requests of the council to ensure Encinitas’ crime numbers continue to decrease. Taft recommended assigning a deputy to walk the downtown area on weekend nights in an effort to increase visibility and prevent commercial break-ins and alcohol-related incidents.
Additionally, Mayor Catherine Blakespear asked whether any of the increases in crimes were attributed to the homeless population, however, Taft could find no direct connection between the transient individuals and the rise in reported crimes.
Councilmembers Kellie Hinze and Tony Kranz expressed support for city programs assisting law enforcement on domestic violence and mental health calls.
During the course of the meeting, the council also awarded the Senior Citizen of the Year Award, in partnership with the Encinitas Senior Citizen Commission and the Rotary Club, to two residents — Lynn Calkins and Greg Butler — for their leadership and contributions to the city’s senior citizen’s community.
In further service of Encinitas’ senior population, the council also voted to appoint Lambert Ling to the Senior Citizen Commission as well as awarded a construction bid for improvements to the Senior Center Courtyard.
Additionally, the council voted to restore the original financial allotment $5,298,790 for the construction of Olympus Park, authorize a contract allowing the North Coast Repertory Theatre to build a performing arts theater at the Encinitas Ranch Town Center and postponed two final action items on accessory dwelling units another week.
The council also discussed the appeal of the Planning Commission’s approval of the consolidation or two underlying legal parcels and construction of 12 detached dwelling units on Vulcan Avenue, requesting the applicant to resubmit additional documents and postponing the decision to a future date.